A new era began Friday at the Houston Herald.

Our award-winning website launched a metered model shortly after 9 a.m. Friday. Along with it came free access for subscribers to our 62 years of digital archives and a new electronic edition.

You may be asking, ‘What is a metered model?’ It’s simple. In its very basic approach, the first 12 stories users click every 30 days will be free. After that, readers will be asked to register and subscribe.

If you’re a casual user on the site, you won’t notice much of a difference. The homepage, section fronts, photo galleries, contests, weather, calendars and classifieds will be free. The rest of the site will be part of the metered system.

Current print subscribers will receive a big discount – the cost will be only $1.25 monthly. Non-print subscribers will pay $2.25 monthly.

By becoming a member of the Herald through our new premium online access, subscribers will gain access to:

-The Herald’s digital archives, which contain every edition printed since 1949. Under our previous system, the cost was more than $400 annually for a subscription.

-Free access to the new-look e-edition, which is a color replica of the print edition. It is available every Wednesday night and allows readers to flip pages just like the newsprint edition. It also is configured for Apple’s iPad.

-A $5 discount toward the purchase of an online classified ad.

It’s a business model that Herald Publisher Brad Gentry says just makes sense.

“It’s a much more balanced approach to our operation,” said Gentry. “All of the added content gives houstonherald.com its own identity, similar to but still different from the print version. And all of it also adds great value for the person visiting our site any time, day or night.

“As the numbers clearly show, digital consumers recognize the website’s value.”

Over the last several years, the Herald has expanded its online offerings. Now it’s possible to watch video of a news event, follow a sporting or news event live, as well access the Herald through applications available on both the Apple and Android platforms. Oftentimes, stories are posted online long before they appear in the newspaper, which turns the Herald into a daily news source. Some items posted on the website never appear in print.

How was the model developed? The system is in place in many newspapers in Missouri and across the country and is proving successful in retaining web traffic and generating revenue to pay for the newsgathering. And according to a University of Missouri School of Journalism study in the spring, nearly half charge for content and another 35 percent plan to do so.

The move, which the Herald staff has worked on since spring, also allows for additional expansion of digital content, which the newspaper has expanded over time: more photo galleries, video coverage and other unique content. A free daily headlines newsletter and breaking news e-mails will also be available by registration on the site.

“We’re a business. In the same way you wouldn’t expect to receive free gas at the gas station or an oil change at no cost, it doesn’t make good business sense to give away our online content for free,” Editor Jeff McNiell said. “We have hard-working people who are producing more and better content than we’ve ever had before. For a very small fee, readers can help support our operational costs, so that we can continue to provide the type of news coverage our subscribers have come to appreciate and expect.”

We’re a business. In the same way you wouldn’t expect to receivefree gas at the gas station or an oil change at no cost, it doesn’tmake good business sense to give away our online content for free.We have hard-working people who are producing more and bettercontent than we’ve ever had before. For a very small fee, readerscan help support our operational costs, so that we can continue toprovide the type of news coverage our subscribers have come toappreciate and expect.”

Sign up for premium online access – which includes the entireHerald website, historical archives and e-edition – on the subscriptionpackages page.

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